What Is The Break-In Period for A New ATV?

When buying a new ATV, the temptation to unpack it and take it out for a spin may be overwhelming, but doing this without properly ‘breaking in’ your engine could damage or even fail the machine in a short time.

Whether you’ve bought a new ATV or rebuilt the engine, never take the quad out before properly breaking the engine in. The break-in period is often a period of time from start-up or a distance ridden at varying throttle levels before you can open it up.

While opinions vary as to the time and methods used to break in an engine, there is consensus that this practiced NEEDS to be done. We’ll take you through some of the processes and recommendations to properly break in your new ATV in the article below.

What is Breaking-In And Engine, and Why Is It So Important?

Breaking in a new engine on an ATV is similar to breaking in a new set of speakers. If you crank them to 80% volume, the chances are you will damage the diaphragms as they need time to ‘warm up’ and get used to regular operation.

Likewise for a new ATV engine. Breaking-in is simply a process where you run the engine at low power and load until it gets used to its operational environment. This helps the engine expand and contract as it warms and cools without risking fracture or damage.

Overworking a new ATV engine could easily result in damage to the cylinders, which is a road you REALLY don’t want to go down. With a bit of patience and time taken to break in the engine properly, you can prolong the life and performance of your new ATV to give you many years of problem-free offroading.

There are quite a few different opinions on how to break in a new ATV engine, and many of these vary according to the various manufacturer’s recommendations. Let’s look at some of the basic rules that all the opinions seem to agree on.

Remember, taking your time with this process is always well spent, and you can never really overdo it.

How To Break in Your New Atv Engine

Step 1 – Warming Up Your Engine

For starters, warming up your engine is always a good idea. This process takes about 10 minutes, depending on the engine size and cooling system. Let the engine temp rise and run steadily for that time, and then shut the engine off.

Let it cool to room temp and then repeat the process two or three times. This process will allow the engine to warm and cool a few times, providing adequate expansion and contraction before riding or putting more load on the machine.

While some advocate for simply letting the engine idle without revving, while others advise revving the engine up to 60% or 70% of throttle, it makes sense to not stress the engine unnecessarily on the first few starts before it’s properly broken in.

Again, consultation with the user’s manual or the manufacturer’s technical advisors (whether by website, phone, or agent’s repair department) would be a wise course of action.

Aside from breaking your motor in, warming it up before taking the quad out is recommended before every ride. Allowing the oil to circulate through the engine before riding, whether a chilled putter around the camp or a hardcore ride, should always be part of the pre-ride checklist.

Step 2 : Adding More Load – Easy Does It

There are a few different ideas around the best ways to gradually increase the load on the engine, whether it be by riding at a low throttle for a few miles and then building up load and speed or progressively increasing the RPMS at standing and then allowing the engine to cool and repeating the process.

As a rule, heavy throttle operation or high RPMs is not recommended for the first two gasoline tanks or the first 25 hours of operation. Whether riding or testing the engine, pushing the machine over 50% of the throttle is not advised.

Riding the quad after the warm-up is fine, provided you aren’t overloading it or running high RPMs. If you go this route, then here is a process you can follow to make sure you don’t overdo it.

This involves five-mile runs at increasing throttle levels with cooldowns in between.

Start with a 5-mile ride at a maximum of 25% on the throttle. Allow the engine to cool down and then do another 5 miles at 50% throttle maximum. Once this is done, you can then increase the throttle to a maximum of 75% throttle riding at varying paces.

As with playing a new set of speakers and amplifier, the 75% threshold would be the acceptable maximum level until the engine has been properly broken in.

One crucial point here. Don’t keep the throttle at a static level for more than a few seconds. Vary the throttle as you go through the gears so that the engine can vary its load.

Once that tank of fuel is finished, check for any leaking fluids and change the oil and oil filter.

One last point here. If you are going to ride the ATV as part of the break-in process, then rather ride on roads and avoid sand, mud, and any other terrain that would add strain and load to a new ATV engine.

Step 3 – Oil and Oil Filter Changes On Break-In

You need to understand here that a new engine, when run for the first few times, releases burrs and other small metal pieces that get caught in the oil filter. It’s recommended that you change the oil filter and oil after the initial warm-up period.

This practice ensures that no splinters stay in the engine and significantly lowers the risk of damage. Using the recommended type of oil for your new ATV is also advisable as some oils may be preferable in your ATV’s engine type.

You may need to do this a few times over the break-in period, and considering the cost of a new ATV, putting your excitement on hold and erring on the side of caution could pay significant dividends over the long term.

If you have the technical ability, adjusting your valves may also be a good idea as they may have shifted slightly during the break-in process. Before doing this, get some info from your manufacturer as to whether this is necessary or not.

Some opinions vary on whether to use conventional oil or synthetic oil during the breaking-in process. Still, the consensus is to use traditional oil until the engine is run in and then switch to synthetic afterward.

Some feel that the synthetic is too ‘slippery’ to allow proper seating of engine components, while manufacturers like Polaris advocate for their Premium 4 Synthetic Oil for their ATVs.

Breaking-In Your New ATV Engine – The Path To Longevity

Whichever method you choose to break in your new ATV engine, it’s evident that this is an essential procedure to ensure many years of mechanical performance from your Atv’s engine. By following the suggestions above, you reduce or eliminate the risk of damage to your engine.

As engine and oil technology improves and as much as it has been enhanced over the last 20 years, breaking in your new ATV engine is still a vital process. Doing this patiently and adequately will give you years of riding enjoyment, whether racing or just cruising around.

Regardless of which ATV you buy, the first reference point should always be the User’s Manual and the manufacturer’s recommendations on breaking in your new ATV engine.


Louis Pretorius

As an amateur off-road enthusiast, I have always been drawn to outdoor adventure. I have decided to share all of my learning experiences with you as I dig a little deeper into my new-found passion and wonderful world of off-roading. My mission is to create the Ultimate Off-roading space on the internet in the process. Stay safe and happy Off-Roading!

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